Orville Taylor | Anderson's biggest fight
I know little about Major General Antony ‘Andy’ Anderson, who will assume the mantle of chief constable in another week. However, other current and former senior military officers whom I dare to call my friends and colleagues give him the thumbs up. Doubtless, having been the national security adviser of the prime minister, Anderson gets major two-fingered endorsement.
I publicly give my support to the new commissioner and urge the women and men of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to back him. According to former commissioner Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, a man known for being decisive, what matters is that we have a commissioner who enjoys the confidence of the head of our government. As simple as this might sound, this is perhaps the most critical element in the effectiveness of the police commissioner. However, it must be support in terms of resources, a commitment to transparency, rule of law, and separation of policy and policing.
Andy’s character as an officer and gentleman is beyond debate and his political persuasion is irrelevant. My question is simply whether or not he is going to be a good leader of the 150-plus-year-old JCF. And to be this, he must first be committed to take a different oath from which he swore during his stellar career in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
The army is a tool of the prime minister (PM), and as minister of defence, he has operational command. Thus, the chief of defence staff is bound to obey all of his lawful orders. As chief constable, he should not take operational instructions from the PM or his delegated minister, despite what the current portfolio minister yearns and deigns to do.
The Anderson I have heard about is a man who has a record of taking the bull by the horns, and I sincerely doubt that he will tolerate being fed anything from the other end by the minister, or anyone else for that matter.
Despite the similarity of insignia, uniform and hierarchy, the JCF and the Jamaica JDF are very different organisations. One important distinction is that the JDF has a sort of apartheid between the officer corps and the ‘other ranks’. While recruits undergo the same basic training, officers are then cauterised and enter full service as second lieutenants and have a shot at becoming major, colonel or major general.
Typically, the private who enters with fewer academic accolades can only aspire to becoming regimental sergeant major, a highly respected rank, but a non-commissioned officer nevertheless. In the anomalous case where an other rank traverses into the officer category, there is no major officer position that awaits him. This entrenched dichotomy is a pivotal tool in managing the force. In the early years of the JDF, the officer ranks were short on melanin.
Admittedly, the JDF has a much more rigid system of discipline and reporting relationships. Insubordination, poor decorum, eating like a porcine creature in the officers’ mess, drinking from a bottle are major, colonel and lieutenant offences. Overfraternising between ranks is a breach, and that includes sexual relations between superordinate and subordinates. In fact, whether airmen or seamen, adultery rules apply for infantry, too. Yes, you can get fired for extramarital relationships, and the JDF has its own police, judges and penal system.
Up to the 1960s, I believe, the JCF was also a segregated organisation, where the highest rank an African Jamaican could aspire to was sergeant major, the present inspector grade. Indeed, the JCF did not get a black commissioner until Basil Robinson in 1973, when people like Novelette Grant and George Quallo were in third form and I in grade seven at St George’s.
The JCF is a much more open system today because every granum canislupisfamiliaris recruit can, in theory, climb from constable to commissioner. With the accelerated promotion experiments in the 1990s and 2000s, and the short-lived recruitment of degree-holding recruits into the assistant superintendent ranks, there was a sort of hybridisation of what obtained in the JDF. However, police officers operate under different rules and laws.
An important distinction is that police officers have discretion built into their duties and they do not need direct orders in order to act. Hence, they are far more accountable for their actions. Moreover, where they are subject to disciplinary action, or for other matters affecting terms and conditions of service, they have the Jamaica Police Federation and the Police Officers’ Association. Most critically, they are subject to civilian laws and when officers from the rank of deputy superintendent retire, they become ordinary citizens and revert to Mr, Mrs, Miss or even Bredda Dog.
The JCF is showing the highest level of demotivation in the past few decades. Officers are encircled by crooked colleagues from within and above, intrusive politicians, and a public that keeps denigrating them.
This is the challenge that Andy faces. He has to treat the police officers as people first and perhaps soldiers after if they buy into his vision. If he does that, he will be able to do wonders.
- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.